Types of Waltz in Ballroom Dancing

The Waltz is the Mother of Modern Ballroom Dances. Many people aren’t aware that there are a few different types of Waltz. In this post, we’ll get into the origins of Waltz, take a look at the 4 most popular styles, and examine some of the ways Waltz shows up in our lives.

Here’s little bit of history before you learn about the different types of Waltz.

The Waltz had a very rocky start. To begin with, it seems the rebellious young people of the German aristocracy began dancing what came to be known as the Waltz in the 18th century. The problem was, rather than holding each other at arm’s length, the two partners wrapped their arms around each other and danced in close contact.

Also, the ladies had to hold their skirts up to avoid stepping on them as they moved backward. At the time, ladies did not show their ankles as it was considered scandalous.

Nevertheless, the dance spread quickly throughout Europe and, by the 19th century, to America as well. Further, the Waltz is now considered a graceful and elegant dance.

The different types of Waltz are:

Viennese Waltz

Viennese Waltz got its start in Vienna (who knew?) with the Strauss Waltzes. Even though these traditional types of Waltz remain a pleasure to listen and dance to, today more and more romantic pop songs are enjoying success with the rhythm. For this reason, it’s become a fashionable choice for the wedding first dance.

The tempo of Viennese Waltz is a peppy 150 – 180 BPM (that’s beats per minute).

Speaking of the first dance, please check out this Dance Safari post, “Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life? 3 Ways to Prepare for Your First Dance“.

International Style Slow Waltz

International style ballroom dancing is unique due to the fact that the couple maintains body contact throughout the dance. As you can probably guess by the name, the dance is much slower than Viennese Waltz which lets the couple make more use of the Waltz element known as ‘rise and fall’. Without a doubt, this is what gives this type of Waltz its lovely, lilting action as the couple rotates around the room.

The tempo for the International Style Slow Waltz is 84-93 BPM.

American Style Waltz

Unlike the International style, American Waltz dancers use a variety of closed and open positions as they dance. That is to say, couples will often split from each other to go into side-by-side, skater’s position, or underarm turns and spins.

The tempo for American Style Waltz is 84-96 BPM.

Country Style is the last in our list of types of Waltz.

Most dancers agree that Country Waltz is pretty much like the American Waltz. However, you’ll probably see more cowboy boots and hats at a country social. In addition, this type of Waltz uses some steps and dance positions that you might see in dances like Country Two-Step.

Country Waltz tempo ranges from 76-98 BPM.

Thanks to Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center for Tempo Recommendations for Dance Music.

Why learn to Waltz?

  • Practicing good Waltz posture will give you stronger legs, knees, and ankles.
  • Better use of the lower body will improve balance, rotation, and poise. For these reasons, you’ll look better and feel better on the dance floor.
  • Partnership skills become stronger as the leader communicates with his body and the follower reacts.
  • Some Waltz steps can be used in other dances like Rumba and Foxtrot. Therefore, you’ll have more variety and can dance more often if you learn to Waltz.
  • You’ll be a sought-after partner if you can do a good Waltz!

Interesting Waltz tidbits.

Poetry: The Waltz by Dorothy Parker. A clever description of a man and woman’s first dance at a social in the early 20th century. (Make sure you read it to the end.)

Music: Christina Perri, A Thousand Years. This beautiful and sweet Viennese Waltz has become a classic choice for a bride and groom’s first dance. (Bring the tissues.)

Speech: Can’t you just hear your Mama saying, “I’m so glad you enjoyed your dinner. Now, how about you waltz on over to the sink and do those dishes?” (Ah, Ma!)

Movies: “The Last Waltz” The rock group The Band gave its farewell concert on Nov. 25, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. As a matter of fact, a young Martin Scorsese filmed and directed the 1978 movie. Sit back and enjoy some of the best of rock ‘n’ roll ever created, including stunning guest performances by legends Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell. (Watch this movie and you’ll learn about the history of 60s and 70s rock ‘n’ roll.)

types of waltz, "the last waltz"
Movie, “The Last Waltz” 1978

Quinceanera Waltz: A sweet tradition as many Latino girls celebrate their 15th birthday and their transition into adulthood. With this in mind, the Quince Waltz is the first time she is permitted to dance in public. (What a nice head-start to have already learned to Waltz at 15 years old.)

The Waltz is a pretty cool dance with a lot of history. The basic step is a Box Step and couldn’t be easier to learn. So, find a teacher and make the Waltz a part of your life.

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  1. The Viennese Waltz, Barbara, is probably my most favourite of all the standard dances; I love the flow and the beauty of dancing to its timing! Thankfully, in this dance, all couples are rotating around the floor in a somewhat ordered way, which allows for great movement.
    The little video excerpt you’ve highlighted is International style at its best. What a gorgeous couple. At our social dances we have to dance with less movement, unfortunately, than they portray. With so many couples on the floor, dance etiquette determines our steps/figures! None the less, though, we do enjoy as much movement as possible.. πŸ™‚

    • Just imagine, if it were 200 years ago, your behavior would be considered scandalous!
      Thanks for reading. It’s my pleasure to share.

      • That is true. One of my favorite dance in a movie was the scandalous tango in Zorro with Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Bandares. 😊

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